Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Comforting Broccoli + Cauliflower + Cheddar Soup

I suck at recipe titles.  For now, this is the title you get.  At least it's descriptive?

I'm jumping on the soup bandwagon with other bloggers as they post soup recipe after soup recipe since the cooler weather already exists in most of the nation.  Houston is having this, it's not summer, but it's not fall either, kind of weather.  Basically cool in the morning, and hot the rest of the day. You eventually learn to dress in layers.

One of the most popular soups that have been popping up in my blog reading lists is of course, broccoli and cheddar soup. But then....I came across a cauliflower soup from the Pioneer Woman! I seriously love cauliflower in all its forms, sauteed, roasted, curried with potatoes and peas, it's delicious.  Once I saw her recipe, I wanted soup, and I wanted it for dinner that night. So I combined broccoli, cauliflower, and cheddar to make a hearty, creamy, and comforting soup topped off with crisp bacon. Because bacon.

For this soup you must be a liker (a word?), or lover of broccoli and/or cauliflower.  I am already assuming that you love cheese and bacon.  Just please don't tell me that you don't.

I know chopping up broccoli and cauliflower can be intimidating when you see a vegetable that looks like a mini tree.  Don't fret, let me go through an easy, not pretty way to get the job done. Pull off as many leaves as you can off of the cauliflower.  Take a sharp knife, and cut off the hard stalk as close to the cauliflower as possible. Then cut your head (the cauliflower head) in half and just go at it with the chopping, cutting the larger florets into smaller pieces. Do the same with the broccoli, it's a little easier and if you want, you can chop up part of the broccoli stalk since it does get tender with cooking. It won't be all pretty florets and sunsets, but who cares. It's going into a soup and then into your mouth.

I cannot have soup just by itself, so if you would like a bigger meal, then add a side salad or a small sandwich.  I made grilled turkey, swiss, and cranberry sauce sandwiches to go along with the soup. That is literally what was in the sandwich, so no recipe needed.

Broccoli + Cauliflower + Cheddar Soup

5 strips of thick cut bacon (I used Applegate Turkey bacon), chopped
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups stock (I used vegetable)
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
sea salt
black pepper
1 head broccoli, chopped into small pieces
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1 cup shredded cheddar + extra for topping (sharp, mild, Colby, Wisconsin, whatever you like)
Parsley, chopped
Hot sauce

Heat a medium to large soup or dutch oven pot over medium heat with the oil. Throw in your bacon and let it cook until crispy. Take the bacon out with a slotted spoon onto a paper napkin and leave the fat in the pot.  Add the garlic and onion and cook until softened and fragrant.  

Add butter, and melt. Add flour, and whisk/mix until it turns a light blonde and smells nutty. This is your roux! Cook for about 2 minutes.

Slowly add in your stock, milk, and heavy cream and whisk to break up the roux clumps, if any. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Season with salt and pepper, tasting to make sure it is to your liking. Add cauliflower and broccoli, simmering until the veggies are tender.  Turn the heat off, taste for seasoning. Add in cheese and stir until melted and combined.

Pour soup into bowls, top with bacon, parsley, and a few dashes of hot sauce.  


Friday, October 17, 2014

Easy Homemade Granola

Don't worry, this recipe has absolutely no pumpkin in it! I'm sure you're faced with a million pumpkin recipes now that it's fall and Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks.  Which by the way, contain NO pumpkin. What the heck?

Nope, no pumpkin here. At least not yet.

For now, you get a yummy, crunchy, and sweet granola recipe.  Homemade granola is great, mostly because you can add whatever you want to it. It can be plain with just rolled oats, or as fancy as adding a bunch of dried fruits and nuts, or you can even make a pumpkin version!  The nice thing about this granola recipe, is that you can use whatever mix-ins you have in your pantry. I didn't have any dried fruit on me, but I had some walnuts and cashews that needed to be used and I added sweetened coconut. I hate raisins, but if you love them and have them, then add them in.

Use this granola in your Cheerios like my husband did, or make a layered parfait with fresh berries and greek yogurt, which is what I did. It's delicious any way you have it.

Easy Homemade Granola

2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup nuts (I used a combination of almonds, walnuts, and cashews), roughly chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
2 tbs coconut oil, melted
1/2 tbs vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs water
1/4 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup of any other dried fruit (cranberries, golden raisins, dried apricots, etc)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine rolled oats and nuts.  In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar,  honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sea salt.  Whisk together and then add water. Water will allow for proper soaking of the oats with this mixture.

Pour the wet mixture into the rolled oats and mix to combine thoroughly.

Spread out evenly on a large baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes.  Mix the granola around halfway through this time. You want the it to be nice and spread out so the oats crisp up and dehydrate.

Turn heat up to 300 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Carefully take the granola out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Transfer granola to a mixing bowl and add in coconut and any other dried fruit as you wish and mix around.  Cool granola completely before transferring to a Ziploc or other air-tight container.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ginger Sesame Beef & Broccoli

Between my sister coming into town, family time, volunteering, and book club, I have not cooked a meal at home in 8 days.  I am pretty sure that is the longest I have not been in the kitchen cooking something up! But it's okay because all those things were much needed in my life.

My sister paid a visit from Connecticut and my little brother came up from Austin, and we had some major family time this weekend. It was possibly the most fun I have had with my family in a long while. I love them too much. There was a lot of eating, long discussions, and some Jenga. The time went by too quickly.  Monday came along with its usual annoying self, but ended with a good session of volunteering and some takeout Chinese. Tuesday was book club, which I look forward to every month because I get to hang out with a bomb group of women who get together for food, drinks, and chatter about life and sometimes, about the book. It is always a great time connecting with people who have similar interests and are so gracious when hosting.

And now here we are days later, and I put together a yummy beef and broccoli dish. It is pretty quick to put together once the beef has marinated.  Slice up some veggies, start your brown rice, and by then you can stir fry your beef and veggies, and BOOM, dinner is ready.  

Ginger Sesame Beef and Broccoli

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced beef
1-inch nub of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs black pepper
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbs honey
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs vegetable/canola oil
1 tbs corn starch + 2 tbs water, whisked (slurry)
2 tbs toasted sesame seeds (toast sesame seeds in dry pan over medium heat)
1-inch nub of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red serrano pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 crown broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
Green onions, whole bunch sliced on the diagonal

Marinate the sliced beef with minced ginger, sugar, black pepper, garlic, salt, cumin, red pepper flakes, honey, and soy sauce in a large bowl. You can leave it in the marinade 30 minutes to overnight.

When ready to cook, pour sesame and vegetable/canola oil into the wok and heat over medium high until it begins to smoke. Drain any leftover marinade, pat the beef with a napkin to get rid of excess liquid, and working in small batches, cook the beef in the oil.  Be careful with spattering.  Cook the beef 1-2 minutes on each side and place in a bowl.

Once all the beef has gone through the oil cooking process, toss in the sliced serranos and ginger into the empty wok along with a dash of vegetable/canola oil if there is not enough oil leftover. Saute for 2 minutes, then add the red bell pepper and broccoli.  Cook until just slightly softened.  Add beef , cornstarch slurry, toasted sesame seeds, and 3/4ths of the sliced green onion. Stir fry all ingredients for a couple of minutes.

Garnish with leftover green onion and sesame seeds and eat over brown rice or noodles.